I open the chest and feast on the sight of my mother’s dresses. Greens and blues and rich ochres – shades of Earth and sea and sky. I have her colouring. I could wear these now.
Father should have disposed of them all, but he refuses, believing in miracles.
I close the lid and continue to my mother’s couch. We sit together, two black-shrouded figures. I stroke her arm to still the tremor that has lingered since the caning, since the vibrant colours of her skirt glimpsed beneath a wind-blown black burka offended a spying neighbour, and we finally understood the new morality.
This story came to mind after hearing a brief radio news item this morning about ISIS “morality police” in one of their remaining strongholds in Syria being out and about measuring the length of men’s beards. The irony of the phrase struck me anew.
In 2002 I taught English to a group of Afghan men who had been accepted into Australia as refugees. I heard some of their stories of atrocities, and since then the plight of victims of cruel regimes is never far from my mind.